It was a highly anticipated moment. At 10 o'clock yesterday morning, the marshal began chanting the ritual "Oyez, Oyez, Oyez" that begins a Supreme Court session and the justices filed out from behind a red velvet curtain and climbed the bench. And there she was.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who only three weeks ago discovered she had colon cancer, emerged and took her place at the far right of the chief justice. She smiled broadly as her husband, Martin, and two grown children, Jane and James, watched in the audience.
Ginsburg's dark brown hair was pulled back in a pony tail as usual and her face showed no obvious signs of stress from the surgery she underwent on Sept. 17. Perhaps she was a bit paler, but there was nothing different in her manner. The 66-year-old justice quickly jumped into the morning's arguments with her customary pointed and persistent questioning.
Later in the day, she reportedly remarked at a court ceremony, "No words can convey how pleased I am to be here with you today."
Ginsburg, the second female justice and President Clinton's first appointee to the court, began experiencing severe abdominal distress this summer while traveling overseas, but was not diagnosed with colon cancer until mid-September. Part of her colon was removed in surgery and afterward her physician said the disease had not spread to nearby lymph nodes. Her prognosis is considered good.
As is the custom, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist made no reference to Ginsburg's illness or recovery as he opened the session. But on the first day of the term, as the court acted on hundreds of appeals and heard arguments in an important death penalty case, what was news to many was Ginsburg's apparent vigor.